Aaron Sorkin put out a call for help as he was devising Season 2 of “The Newsroom,” and he ended up with something of an all-star team.
An Emmy winner for “The West Wing” and an Oscar winner for “The Social Network,” the writer-producer launches Season 2 of his HBO drama series Sunday (July 14). Jeff Daniels returns to head the ensemble cast as opinionated cable news anchor Will McAvoy, but Sorkin assembled another ensemble for the sophomore season — a group of consultants with expertise in news and world events.
Among those who answered his call: MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield, media and politics commentator Jeff Greenfield, MSNBC personality Alex Wagner, political analyst S.E. Cupp (who recently left MSNBC for CNN’s upcoming reboot of “Crossfire”) and veteran network-news producer Rick Kaplan.
“I kind of sent out the bat-signal that I was looking for an idea for a high-stakes lawsuit [story],” Sorkin tells Zap2it. “That would give me the opportunity to question the characters, and it would last the whole season long.” New cast member Marcia Gay Harden actually does the on-camera questioning, playing a lawyer who represents the fictitious Atlantis Cable News and deposes various staff members.
“I started by asking the consultants if there was anything real that I could use as a jumping-off point,” Sorkin says, “and I immediately heard back from Rick Kaplan … and also from Jeff Greenfield, who was the anchor at CNN during a broadcast about Operation Tailwind. And Rick Kaplan was the president of CNN at the time.”
The report was for the premiere of the program “CNN NewsStand,” done in conjunction with Time magazine, and Sorkin explains “it was the story of the U.S. Army using chemical weapons in Laos in 1970. And it turned out that there was a lot of trouble with the story.”
Indeed, numerous military veterans and former government officials were very vocal in challenging the report — with an outcome that encompassed lawsuits, settlements and an internal network investigation. “The Newsroom” adapts it into a similar crisis known by the name Genoa.
Having rewritten and re-shot much of the first two new episodes, Sorkin adds that two more consultants, “people whose names I can’t give you, both former members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, helped me update that story. It’s a great group of people, very eclectic, and they all contributed in one way or another.”
“The Newsroom” premieres at 10 p.m. ET Sunday (July 14) on HBO.